NZ dollar drops after Labour overtakes National in poll

The NZ dollar took at dip just after 6pm, when the poll was announced.


The NZ dollar took at dip just after 6pm, when the poll was announced.

The New Zealand dollar dropped about a third of a cent against the US dollar after the latest political poll showed the National Party had slipped behind Labour.

The dollar was trading at US71.46 cents just after 6pm on Thursday, down from US71.72c at 5.50pm.

The result showed Labour leading National in a poll for the first time in 12 years, with 43 per cent to National’s 41.

Let’s bust some myths over National’s hit job on Winston Peters

by Cameron Slater on August 31, 2017 at 8:30am

Credit: Luke @ Whaleoil

For the past few days, there have been many, many new commenters on the site.

All pushing one agenda or another, but almost all what I would describe as two ticks National.

They all have various theories as to who leaked what and who benefits. None of them can even remotely accept that it was National’s hit and that they botched it spectacularly.

Let’s look at the various scenarios and scotch some myth and pop some bubbles.

Myth 1 –  The disgruntled Green/Labour worker

Anyone who knows government department systems and especially MSD and IRD systems knows that this is total, unadulterated bull crap. It simply can’t happen. The audit systems in place for sensitive files and the tax and MSD files of MPs amongst others would be classified as sensitive, are very strict. There simply isn’t access to their files in the system for Gemma the disgruntled Green or Liam the disgruntled Labour staff members to get this information. If they did manage to access the files then alerts, warnings and system lock out occur. I know this to be the case because of two sources, very senior in both departments.

This myth is just that and anyone pushing it is either willfully ignorant or just plain stupid.

Myth 2 – Labour did it

We know Labour didn’t do it because they are very good at hit jobs. They surely did the Turei hit job, and they got their target. They were of course helped by Turei’s own hubris, but they knew that when they played the hit. Winston Peters is way too wily to get hit by Labour and in any case, they need him more than National needs him. Think about that for a minute. If it is true that National was trying to nobble Winston so they could govern alone then Labour doing it would have spiked any chance they had of forming a government.

Secondly, how would Labour have obtained the information? Quite simply, they couldn’t have. See Myth 1 above.

Myth 3 – Winston did it

This is one of the more ridiculous myths out there. No politicians willingly risk a hit on themselves, because once in the wild there is no controlling the narrative as media write their own stories. The number of people complicit in that would render that hit dead faster than a cat shot with a .22-250. When the law suits start flowing you will know that Winston didn’t do this himself.

So, where does that leave us?

Well, Occam’s Razor is helpful here:

Occam’s razor (or Ockham’s razor) is a principle from philosophy. Suppose there exist two explanations for an occurrence. In this case, the simpler one is usually better. Another way of saying it is that the more assumptions you have to make, the more unlikely an explanation is.

Let’s put it simply. Who had the information, other than Winston Peters?

  1. The CEO of MSD, Brendan Boyle. He saw fit to decide he should tell his minister. Not only that he sought legal advice from the Solicitor-General.
  2. The Solicitor-General, Una Jagose QC, who gave a legal opinion.
  3. Anne Tolley as the Minister of Social Development. She was told by Brendan Boyle, who also gave her a second briefing. More on that later.
  4. Peter Hughes, the State Services Commissioner. He was briefed by Brendan Boyle and was the one who told Boyle to get a legal opinion. He later briefed Paula Bennett.
  5. Paula Bennett, the Minister of State Services and also Police and the Deputy Prime Minister. She says she told no one, which is scarcely believable as she has form on leaking personal information obtained from government departments. She released personal details of two beneficiaries and an ex-police officer helping at Te Puea marae.
  6. Wayne Eagleson, the Chief of Staff for the Prime Minister. He was briefed by Anne Tolley. He says he never spoke tot eh PM, despite him being the Chief of Staff. This simply is not believable.
  7. Steve Joyce, Finance Minister. When asked about the pending scandal before it broke, he told several people that it involved Winston Peters and superannuation overpayments. I have spoken to several sources who confirm this.

All of that is public knowledge and admitted by all except Steve Joyce. I won’t call him a liar, but I will say he is being economical with the truth.

Compare that with all the myths outlined above. Those are facts, all the myths are simply conjecture.

Using Occam’s Razor the simplest explanation is that apart from three senior civil servants, all the other fingerprints on this hit job are National party ministers or senior staff.

It might be uncomfortable for readers to realise, but I have been telling you all for three years that National has serious problems and that those were exacerbated by the election of Bill English to leader.

The unpalatable truth is that the only people who had the motive, inclination, and information to perform this outrageous abuse of someone’s privacy was the National party.

Now, about that second briefing. For those who don’t know, ministerial briefings are scripted. They go something like this:

The CEO arrives and explains to the minister that they have several agenda items and that one of them is sensitive. They go through the items and when they reach the sensitive one the room is cleared and maybe one trusted aide remains. Then the details are given. Usually, the minister, if they are smart, asks a simple question. “Is this issue resolved to the satisfaction of the department?”. If the answer is yes then the next question to ask is “Is there anything that the Cabinet needs to know about this?” If the answer is in the negative then the briefing is concluded and the CEO goes back to his office and writes a butt covering diary note about the briefing should anything untoward happen. That diary note is discoverable under the OIA. Media will already be after those.

Now, Tolley was briefed twice. That can only mean one of two things. At the first briefin, she asked the CEO to keep her updated on progress, which he subsequently did. Or, and this is more likely, she told the CEO that she would elevate this higher and will get back to him on what to do. She then went to Wayne Eagleson who wanted more information and so Tolley told the CEO to get more information. This information was then conveyed during the second briefing. Boyle will have kept note and almost certainly those will now become subject ot an inquiry. Being a competent civil servant he will have covered his butt.

Now, can we please dispense with all the myths, ideas and conspiracy theories. You need to understand that Bill English’s government is rotten from the top down.

There is no way that his Deputy PM, Campaign Chair, Deputy Campaign Chair, Senior Minister, and Chief of Staff never said a word to him.

Occam’s razor says this was a National party hit, and everyone except sycophants realise this. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings, but you haven’t been listening to me. Perhaps you will start now.

Winston Peters admits taking extra pension payments

Winston Peters admits taking extra pension payments
Photo credit: Getty

Winston Peters has admitted having to pay back a pension overpayment, after being contacted by Newshub.

Mr Peters initially refused to confirm he had been overpaid the pension after being contacted on Saturday, going as far as to say someone was “seriously misleading you, mate”.

“Oh well, you know, you go with your source and see how it looks,” he said.

But on Sunday night he issued a statement called “A mistake that was fixed”, and said he had paid the money back in July this year.

In the statement, Mr Peters said he had applied for pension in 2010 “in the company of [his] partner” and a senior Ministry of Social Development official.

“In July of this year, I was astonished to receive a letter from the Ministry to advise there was an error in my superannuation allowance and a request that I meet with them,” he said.

After “immediately” contacted and meeting up with MSD’s area manager, Mr Peters says they agreed there had been an error.

“It was unclear on both sides how the error had occurred leading to a small fortnightly overpayment,” he said.

It’s not yet known how much he was overpaid, but Mr Peters said he “corrected” the error and overpayment within a day of finding out about it.

I agree with FranO, Jacinda does need to come clean on tax

by Cameron Slater on August 27, 2017 at 8:30am

Labour has had nine years in opposition to come up with a tax plan. Grant Robertson has been finance spokesperson for most of that. Still, they insist on hiding their tax plans and calling in ‘experts’

Fran O’Sullivan thinks this is outrageous and I agree.

Jacinda Ardern has the momentum at the 2017 election, but she should stop the charade and issue a detailed capital gains tax policy.

Ardern has been leading Labour since the 1st of August. She argues that she needs more time to have a “fresh look” at thorny tax issues.

But the Labour Party – of which she has been a leading light – has been in Opposition for nearly nine years.   

That’s plenty of time to get the detail togetherThat fact that it hasn’t done so suggests incompetence, or a lack of courage when it comes to selling fundamental tax reform.

Ardern should not shy away from making the case for the imposition of a capital gains tax (and other wealth and asset taxes) as part of structural reform.

Let’s face it, Labour has had a fully fledged capital gains tax as part of its policy arsenal at previous elections in 2011 and 2014.

The party has never made any secret of the fact that it will set up a Tax Working Group to study this if it wins the September 23 election.

Shadow Finance Minister Grant Robertson said, in May 2016, that the group would be empowered to develop ways to correct imbalances between the productive and speculative parts of the economy. “While we want a comprehensive review, there will be some interim steps that we will announce before the election to ensure that we have the revenue to address pressing issues, particularly in health, education and housing,” Robertson was reported as saying.

“I think it is only fair to go to the next election with some sense of the direction of our tax policy. We want the tax working group to do the detailed work but I think it is only fair for New Zealanders that they see the path we are on.”

Why can’t Treasury do the work? Why haven’t Labour done the work? Why this so-called tax working group, presumably a bunch of appointed Labour friendly flunkies, the only group who can develop a tax policy. It is deceitful and intellectually dishonest to not have done any work in nine years on this.

There is also plenty of support within the business community to address this gaping hole in New Zealand’s tax regime.

But all we hear from Ardern is the mantra that she is “being transparent” with the public by saying Labour will put capital gains taxes on the working group’s agenda to give a “direction of travel”. This is disingenuous.

Particularly as Ardern has indicated that instead of seeking an electoral mandate on September 23 for new capital gains taxes, Labour will simply seek the working group’s advice and then (in all probability) introduce the taxes in its first term in Government.

She has stipulated that Labour will ring-fence family homes from the new regimes. But what about businesses and farms which are integral to New Zealand’s productive sector?

In Labour’s 2014 election policy, the first $250,000 of gains would have been tax-free if the seller was aged over 55 and had personally owned the business for more than 15 years. Then a 15 per cent tax would apply on the capital gain from sales.

Is that still the case? Or does Labour intend more swingeing reforms?

You bet they will have massive tax reforms…upwards.

Capital gains taxes are complex. They can be blunt instruments.

But the National Government introduced a quasi capital gains tax when it brought in a bright-line test for residential property sales to curb speculation. Labour has said it will extend that test from two to five years.

The public understood the rationale for National’s move. There was no pushback.

Robertson has also said Labour will fund its new economic policies through cancelling National’s planned 2018 tax cuts and achieving higher tax revenue from multinationals and property speculators. In the past, he has favoured addressing bracket creep when it comes to moving the thresholds at which personal incomes taxes cut in.

That has been left as a possibility in coalition negotiations, where in all likelihood the party will talk with New Zealand First, which has put forward some useful tax cuts in the company space.

Then there are the water levies and tourist levies (still to be announced).

Again, how hard is it for Labour to introduce some certainty for farmers by spelling out the size of the water levy?

Farmers have been told Labour is proposing a levy of 1 or 2 cents for each 1000l of water that farmers use.

But the party will consult with farmers on the exact size of the levy once in office.

Farmers deserve some certainty – 2c on 1000l would be twice the cost of a levy of 1c per 1000l.

Would it not make more sense for Labour to put the levy at 1c per 1000l and reassess its effect at a later date?

Fundamentally, this “trust us” approach is insulting.

Labour is the party which has driven fundamental reform in the past. It is better than this.

Trust Labour?

No Thanks

Labour appear to have access to new physics and more money

by Cameron Slater on August 23, 2017 at 1:30pm

David Farrar doesn’t believe that’s possible

High speed rail to Tauranga for $20 million – yeah right

The Herald reports:

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern’s $20 million promise to link passenger rail services between Tauranga and Auckland has already hit a snag, with Port of Tauranga’s boss questioning its likelihood. …

Ardern pledged the $20m to establish the first stage of the passenger service proposal – estimated to cost $10m.

If demand is there, Labour would look to invest in stages two and three of the plan, delivering services travelling up to 160km/h throughout the wider region.

The additional $10m would be invested over five years for operating costs.

Rail projects around the world are known to always cost way way more than their promoters claim. We’ve seen this in Australia and the UK. And high speed rail is especially expensive.  The Independent reported:


Britain’s new high-speed rail line will be the most expensive railway in the world with costs per mile expected to reach £403m, according to Government calculations. 

Note that is the cost per mile, not the cost for the whole line. And Labour claims it can do high speed from Auckland to Tauranga for $20 million!

As was covered on Whaleoil in the comments some days ago, the high speed rail costs all around the world have been excessively high.

The Honolulu rail’s record high costs are nothing new, however. When the project ballooned from $3 billion to $5 billion, it was already the highest cost per capita.

“Even at $5 billion, I can definitely say that no rail project has ever cost more per capita than Honolulu’s,” O’Toole said. “At $10 billion or whatever the final cost turns out to be, it will be even more so.”

Spurred by the massive cost overruns, many citizens across the state have signed the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii petition calling for a full independent audit of the Honolulu rail project.

Why governments and politicians keep wanting to put rail everywhere when all that we really want is better roads continues to baffle me.

Look at Auckland.  The transport budget is literally paralysing the Council from doing anything else.  And far from being complete, it’s going to need much more money.  Money that they don’t have.

With that as a background, the Labour party want light rail down Dominion Road, to Auckland Airport and high speed rail between Auckland, Tauranga and Hamilton.

When is someone going to dare say we can’t afford any of it?

The briefing cites international construction costs for very fast trains rising from $16 million per kilometre on a rail link in Spain to $110 million per kilometre for the Channel Tunnel rail link into London. More densely populated areas produce higher costs, due to the price of buying land.

$20m for the whole rail link?

Tell her she’s dreamin’

Labour’s frontal Tax Assault

by Cameron Slater on August 24, 2017 at 7:30am

In fairness to Jacinda Ardern, she didn’t raise the prospect of hiking the top tax rate, the media did.

But she didn’t deny it was part of her plans saying she’d wait to see the state of the books and make a decision then, adding it’d probably take several days to crunch the numbers.

Well the numbers were crunched within just a few hours and the top tax rate won’t be changed.

If she doesn’t realise that raising taxes does not a Government make, then she’d do well to look at the three previous elections she’s been involved in with Labour, especially the last one.

David I’m-ashamed-of-being-a-man Cunliffe was at the helm and made such a botch of remembering details about the capital gains tax proposal that he himself devised, during a television debate with John Key, that it ran Labour off the fiscal rails.

Tax is again shaping up to possibly be Labour’s Achilles’ heel and simply sidelining the issue to a taxation working group after the election won’t do.

Ardern was asked the other day whether finance was her weak point and she replied with a curt, “no”.

Being up against the former Finance Minister and one time Treasury wonk Bill English, she’d do well to know her stuff in what is a political minefield. Perhaps that’s why she’ll spend much of today with the spin merchants schooling her up on the difference between a hedge fund and the fence that her mum’s offered to paint to make her house look presentable in the lead up to the election.


As I said some days ago, analysis shows that Ardern can deliver a lie like she truly believes it herself.  It’s given her an air of confidence not seen since Helen Clark.

But that only gets you so far.   At some point, you need to also be able to discuss issues in some depth.   She can’t have a pretend-working party for every issue she wants to defer discussion on.

All the taxes are aimed at “rich pricks”.  Farmers, property owners and people who make too much money because they work too hard.  This plays well with grassroots Labour voters who have always worked on envy and an imported hatred of “Torys”.

Will it be enough to fool enough voters for the next four weeks?   Waiting for Jacinda to finally trip up and and reveal there isn’t anything behind the smile is turning into quite the cliff-hanger.

If she does stumble, it could be the “show me the money” moment of this election.

Rob Hosking on Labour’s capital gains tax gamble

by Cameron Slater on August 24, 2017 at 9:30am

Labour’s new willingness to talk about capital gains tax shows how confident the party is getting that it can win on September 23.

Capital gains taxes have always been regarded as a “third rail” of New Zealand politics – touch it and you fry, politically.

Labour had a capital gains tax in its 2011 and 2014 election manifestos. It was regarded as one reason the party lost those elections, although there were myriad factors contributing to those defeats.

Former leader Andrew Little certainly believed it was a big factor: There were too many would-be Labour supporters with an investment property as part of their retirement savings plan who did not feel they should pay tax on the capital gain from that investment.

Nothing reveals just how much weight Labour is putting on “the Jacinda Effect” than its willingness to talk about a capital gains tax again.

It believes Ms Ardern’s appeal can overcome public resistance, in much the same way former Prime Minister John Key’s appeal overcame public resistance to selling shares in state owned enterprises, or to rises in GST.

Labour’s front bench has gone from refusing to discuss the idea, saying it would leave all that detail to a working group, and then putting it to New Zealanders in 2020, only a week ago, to now saying it will bring in a capital gains tax in its first term.

There isn’t any detail. Labour says it will leave all that stuff to a tax working group but will accept that working group’s recommendations.

Labour are refusing to talk detail on anything.  They remind me of the stereotypical consultant that tells you how good it’s all going to be, but once the sale is closed, he disappears and bunch of incompetent workers move in with the impossible task of delivering on promises they never made.

Labour are distracting the media with different non-essential angles on a daily basis.  A republic, for crying out loud…  thing is, while the media is reporting on Jacinda’s Brain Fart du jour, they’re not actually digging deeper into what was proposed or promised days ago.

And when it comes to policy detail, that will all come after the election.   Once the anonymous and amorphous ‘working group’ have decided what is good for NZ.

We really seem to be electing a working group, but we’re not allowed to know who they are, what their qualifications are, what their history is, or that they aren’t just Labour people in the first place.

It will be interesting to see who Labour points to being in that working group: You can probably bet that anyone on previous working groups on the issue will be given a big miss.

You never put a working group together that won’t deliver the answer you wanted in the first place.

All this working group is right now is an excuse for Labour not to get tripped up on policy detail.   As you will recall, most policies over the last 6 years haven’t survived for more than 48 hours, frequently failing on basic maths alone.

Lets compare Labour, National and NZ First’s policies on water

by SB on August 22, 2017 at 5:00pm

Royalties for the Regions: New Zealand First want to charge foreign-owned companies a royalty for exporting bottled water from New Zealand. At least 25% of that royalty would go back to the region the water came from for infrastructure and regional economic development.(cost of royalty unknown)

They would limit resource consents for commercial uses of water to sustainable uses.

They propose to reform the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management.

Principles would include :

  • That water is a common good
  • That the Treaty of Waitangi doesn’t give Maori special rights to take or use water
  • That the requirements for domestic supply of water must prevail over all other takes and uses.
  • Maori would be consulted but New Zealand First opposes specific Maori ownership rights over freshwater.

They would prevent the transfer of water consents when the original reason for granting the consent ceases

They would clean up urban waterways (cost unknown)

They would remove the requirement to consult iwi from the Resource Management Act


National would continue to fund projects that improve freshwater management. The money would come from a $100 million Freshwater Improvement Fund set up this year for use over the next decade.

National would continue to aim for 90% of lakes and rivers to be swimmable by 2040.To achieve this goal, they have amended the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management. National estimates achieving this goal will cost $2 billion over the next 23 years.

National would continue to require farmers to keep livestock out of waterways. Since July 2017 farmers have been required to exclude dairy cattle and pigs from most waterways. The requirements will be fully implemented in 2030. National expects this policy to cost farmers $367 million. 

National would continue to fund private sector regional irrigation projects. Around $90 million would be spent over the next three years, with an estimated total of $400 million to be invested over time.

Labour will increase funding for the Environmental Protection Agency (cost unknown)

Labour will work with iwi to resolve Treaty water claims. (cost unknown)

Labour will charge a royalty for large-scale use of commercial water (cost of royalty unknown)

**Councils will be exempt from the royalty payment.

The royalty for bottled water would be on a per litre basis, and the royalty for irrigation per 1000 litres. Revenue from the royalties would mainly go to regional councils, and might be used for the cost of keeping water clean.

Labour will make all lakes and rivers to a swimmable state within a generation

Labour would strengthen water quality regulations by changing the National Policy Statement.

The new statement would set strong standards for dissolved oxygen, pathogens, slime and macroinvertebrate health, and would require resource consents for activities which harm waterways. Within five years, all intensively stocked land near waterways would need to be fenced, and planting along river banks will be required. (cost unknown)

This article is just for the top three parties but one Cuckoo Green policy is worth a mention…

The Green Party propose to BAN new Dairy farms to help keep our waterways clean. I guess the demand for increased milk production thanks to the thousands of extra refugees and immigrants they want to bring in will just have to go unfulfilled. Let them drink water instead!

Resign Phil, you lied to ratepayers

by Cameron Slater on August 23, 2017 at 10:30am

He promised 2.5% rates rises.  Maximum.  Now he says it won’t happen.  2.5% will be the minimum.

Goff prefers to hold rates rises to 2.5 per cent, but faces having no new revenue sources to meet a huge funding hole for transport projects.

He says an agreement with the Government on funding transport requires him to put every option on the table, including using rates.

At last year’s local body elections, Goff promised to keep rate rises to an average of 2.5 per cent or less over three years. He achieved 2.5 per cent in his first budget this year.

Faced with massive population growth, the council being right up against its debt ceiling and a joint council-Government $5.9 billion funding hole in transport over the next decade, Goff is under huge financial constraints heading into a new 10-year budget.

Like his predecessor Len Brown, Goff has been seeking new funding sources to put “more skin in the game”, including a regional petrol tax and tolls.

The National Government has ruled out a regional petrol tax and work on tolls or a form of congestion charging is years away. Labour and the Greens have promised to give the council the power to raise a regional petrol tax. A 10 cents a litre tax has been talked about, bringing in about $100 million a year.

None of this is new.  He knew about the huge funding hole going into the election.

Of course he lied.  He’s done that all his career.

But this is a fairly big one.  He got elected on a ticket of solving this problem for 2.5% or less.

And he can’t do it.

So I think it’s pretty obvious he should resign and let someone else have a go.

Tax, Tax and More Tax: Taxinda keeps Capital Gains Tax option alive

by Cameron Slater on August 23, 2017 at 9:30am

Even though they lost an election trying to campaign on Capital Gains Tax, Labour are not ruling it out.

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has confirmed a capital gains tax could be introduced if she leads the next Government.

Ardern has revealed it was her own “captain’s call” to not rule out introducing a capital gains tax on rental properties or second homes next term. …

Labour will wait to hear what a planned tax working group recommends on the matter, Ardern said – but waiting to act until after the 2020 election was too long. It would not apply to the family home, she said.

“It is different leadership, different decisions,” Ardern said. “Andrew [Little] made a call that he would go back to the electorate.

“I made a call that if I was in government and presented with a tax working group paper that suggested these are the things you need to do to be able to tackle the housing crisis and inequality in your tax system, to then sit on that for one, maybe two years without doing anything didn’t feel right to me.”

She had talked to finance spokesman Grant Robertson, but it was ultimately a “captain’s call”.

Good.  It’s clear that she’s taking responsibility for it then.

Not sure how many people want to vote for a government that’s basically saying “We want to tax you all more, but do so fairly.  We will turn the whole tax system upside down once we have a working party of unknown people, structure, duration and scope recommend to me what to do.  And then, I might not do any of it, all of it, some of it, or even something completely different.   Please vote for me.  Because… fair.

How long are the media going to allow her to get away with a flashy smile and absolutely zero substance?

I, on the other hand, place my trust in voters.  They tend to make good decisions once they’re in the polling booth.